Tag Archives: Senate Committee

Today’s Climate Change Congressional Hearings

This afternoon in Washington DC, Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who does not believe in global warming yet is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing called “Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate.” The purpose of the hearing appears to be to reify the false debate of the reality and importance of anthropogenic global warming, and is yet another step in the current McCarthyesque attack on legitimate climate scientists and their research.

This is an important moment in the history of bullshit.

Among the “experts” giving testimony will be the Canadian conservative shock jock Mark Steyn. Steyn’s relationship to global warming is similar to, say, Rush Limbaugh’s relationship to women’s rights. He is a bloviating ignoramus who treats the truth like so much dog poo on the bottom of his shoe. If he actually knows anything about climate science, he is doing a very good job of hiding it. His major contribution to the discussion is a continuous attack on climate scientists based mostly on cherry picked quotes. In fact, he recently self published a book made up, apparently, of cherry picked quotes and related material in an effort to discredit top climate scientists. For a flavor for what he has done, check out this analysis of the quotes he used of several established climate scientists.

I have a copy of Steyn’s testimony. Steyn is being sued for defamation by scientist Michael Mann. I won’t go into the details of that suit, but a very large part of Steyn’s testimony before the Senate is about that law suit or related issues. It appears that the Republicans on the Senate science subcommittee are allowing an anti-science Canadian citizen to use the Senate hearing room to argue his side of a civil law suit. (Part of his argument, by the way, is to say several insulting things about the judicial branch hearing this case, and the judge. Entering these comments into the congressional record.)

One of the interesting things Steyn does is to define a set of “experts” whom he claims make the case against global warming, and whose work has been either ignored or discredited by mainstream climate science. This set includes the recently turned Judith Curry; John Christy, one of the only climate scientists to believe that the Earth’s system is relatively insensitive to increases in greenhouse gas concentration; Meteorologist Lennart Bengtsson, famous for briefly joining the science denier organization “Global Warming Policy Foundation,” only to quit a short time later in what seemed to be a ploy to accuse mainstream science as being McCarthyistic (so yes, there will be irony in Washington DC today); Lord Nigel Lawson, a blue-blood non-scientist science denier which I’m pretty sure is a category (including Lord Christopher Monckton and coal baron Lord Viscount Matt Ridley); the economist Roger Pielke Junior, who is famous for being drummed out of the statistico-rationalist site FiveThirtyEight after he represented his research attempting to show that hurricanes aren’t really a problem, but accidentally let a bunch of actual statistics experts see what he was up to; and the recently discredited Harvard-Smithsonian not-a-professor soft money guy Willie “The Sun Did It” Soon.

Roger is a real life academic who has climate change impacts wrong, in my opinion (and I’m not alone) and has stepped into a fight he was regrettably unprepared for. But otherwise he’s just some guy with a faculty job. Until now. Now, according to Congressional Testimony, he is part of a set that includes a handful of crazy anti-science rantologists. John Cristy and Judith Curry are both testifying today, along with Steyn. Curry was a legit climate scientists who, much to the horror and chagrin of her colleagues, has slid farther and farther into the anti-science abyss, who rarely makes sense any more, and who is probably the last established academic anyone would want to give testimony about such an important issue. But she is apparently very excited about giving this testimony.

The point of these associations? Mark Steyn, who is a spiritual leader of the anti-science movement, has placed a couple of people who might not have wanted to be classified with discredited scientists and ranting yahoos into the same boat with said individuals. Maybe fairly, maybe not. I wonder how they feel about this.

Now, to be fair, Steyn’s testimony, which is mostly him pleading his side of the law suit, is not entirely inappropriate for this particular hearing. The hearing is about the meta-context in which the science is being done, and the law suit is about nefarious accusations made by a guy who looks a lot like a bought and paid for science denier against Michael Mann. Steyn isn’t so much the problem here, but rather, the hearing itself, and the subcommittee, is the problem. Steyn is merely the poster boy.

For those just tuning in, one of the things Steyn will yammer on about today (or at least, enter into the record) is this deal about Michael Mann and the Nobel Prize. According to Nobel, “The Nobel Peace Prize 2007 was awarded jointly to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” Mike Mann and others who were on that panel rightfully were credited, thusly, with winning the Nobel Prize. And they did. But technically, the Nobel Committee does not actually use that nomenclature. They say that the panel, not the people on it, won the prize. Once this semantic detail was made clear, the people on the IPCC appropriately adjusted their language to reflect the Nobel construction of things. But Steyn has been yammering about this since, claiming that his arch nemesis, the actual scientist Mann, claimed something that was not true. Apparently Steyn will continue this yammering this afternoon for the benefit of our Senate, and we the taxpayers will be paying for this.

The highlight, I say non-sardonically, of the hearings may be the testimony of Rear Admiral David Titley, a PhD in Meteorology who has made significant contributions to understanding and communicating about climate change. I assume he was invited by the minority party. If you haven’t seen Rear Admiral Ditley’s TEDx Talk, you should. He was a climate skeptic, then he looked into it, and realized that climate change is one of the most important issues of the day. He is a great communicator and an honest interlocutor. He’ll be swabbing the deck with the likes of Steyn and Curry.

Steyn’s testimony has the climate science wrong. I am pretty sure the minority members of the committee will be aware of this, and will address these issues in a well informed manner. But the truth is, with Republicans in control in the Senate, and with the current McCarthyesque attack on climate scientists well under way, this hearing will largely be a circus.

In my opinion, the following statement by Steyn, from his written testimony, should be first, because it is the most important thing he has to say:

In that respect, let me close by turning to my area of expertise. I am not a climate scientist, but I am an acknowledged expert in the field of musical theatre

In response, the chair of the subcommittee would appropriately say, “Oh, excuse me, then, Mr. Steyn, we obviously invited you by accident. You may now return to Canada. Thank you for your time.”

Photograph from here, “Protesters gather near the office of [Florida] Senator Marco Rubio to ask him to take action to address climate change. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images”